Two Chinese courts over the weekend sentenced 14 members of a banned religious cult to jail time, according to a new report. Five members of the Church of Almighty God were sentenced by one court Saturday in the northeastern province of Liaoning, and another court in the central province of Hubei jailed nine more members Sunday, Reuters reported.
The cult members, who were all facing between 18 months to three years of jail time, were convicted of “undermining the implementation of laws by making use of cult organizations.” Police said they found books, leaflets and memory sticks used to promote the group.
A total of 19 followers of the Church of Almighty God have been imprisoned this month alone, UCANews.com, an Asian independent Catholic news source, reported. Last year, a video went viral of five cult members who were all related to one another, beating a woman to death in a McDonald’s in Shandong, China, because they believed she was “possessed by an evil spirit.” Two cult members were executed as a result and three others were given sentences ranging from seven years to life. Since the case, authorities have reportedly arrested 1,000 Church of Almighty God members.
The Church of Almighty God was being led by a Chinese person living in exile in the U.S. The group has identified as an unorthodox Protestant group. It has also declared war against the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese Community Party, citing concern with social stability, has cracked down on numerous religious cults over the years, putting down demonstrations with force and executing sect leaders in some cases. Earlier this month, Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese online news source, reported that a spiritual leader of a Chinese Buddhist sect would be prosecuted for financial and sexual offenses. China has also submitted a new law to its parliament that would include harsher punishments for those involved in “cults or superstitious activities,” The Times of India reported.